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One of my favorite chapters, The Avatar and the Fire Lord is an amazing episode, marking the death of my personal favorite Avatar. Roku becomes a well defined character in this chapter, being given remarkable depth as a character who had experienced great loss, yet still advocated balance. This blog will discuss several topics, ranging from action scenes to character development, and maybe a few other things in between.
Well, first off, we have Aang being visited by Roku in a dream, telling him to go to his home island. Ominous, yet open to audience interpretation. Simultaneously, Zuko receives a scroll telling him to look into the death of his great-grandfather, assumed to be Sozin. As the flashbacks commence, we find that Roku (balance incarnate) and Sozin (one who destroyed balance) were friends. As Aang later notes, it is clear that the two came from very similar situations, and that they turned out incredibly different. When Roku is revealed to be the Avatar, Sozin makes light of the role, again showing how he disregards balance. As Roku masters the elements, he meets several unique figures: Gyatso, a powerful Waterbender, and Sud (a character reminiscent of Toph).
Returning to the Fire Nation, Roku gets married, settles down, and establishes his position as the Avatar. Later on, he discovers that Sozin began a war, and decides to stop him. After many years, Roku's home island has a volcanic eruption. Roku tries in vain to stop the flow, and almost gives up hope. However, a recently arrived Sozin prompts him to keep trying. The two are hindered by poisonous gases being released from the volcano. Roku is overwhelmed and is left unable to stand. Sozin leaves, realizing that he can now start a war with Roku's disappearance. And so he does.
The episode ends at the present day, with Roku telling Aang to connect the details of the two's lives. Zuko confronts Iroh about the letter, who tells him that he is related to Roku. He then gives Zuko the Crown Prince Headpiece, reminding him of his inner conflict.
This episode ties many obscure parts of the series together. Roku's struggles to master Waterbending mirror Aang's problems with Earthbending, something he notes as being "Bitter Work". We also finally see the normal Avatar journey, simply traveling and training.
Something unseen in all but one other episode, we can see the full Air Nomad culture. This rarity is one of true delight, being a culture different from the remaining three nations.
One of the title characters, Roku is entirely transformed in this episode. He is initially a guide who has had few flaws, though he is morphed into a character who has a massive amount of past backstory. The chapter shows the reasons he didn't stop the war; namely that he was dead. Someone like Avatar Kyoshi would have stepped up and killed Sozin where he stood, but Sozin was Roku's friend. Allowing him to live ended up causing the death of another friend, Gyatso, along with all (save Aang) of his people. In "The Awakening", Roku said that he "should have seen the war coming, and prevented it", something to note is that he literally saw the War itself, with Sozin conquering parts of the Earth Kingdom during his lifetime.
We also see Roku's reaction to his best friend, the leader of the Fire Nation, asking for his help in disrupting balance. Roku adamantly refuses, stating that the natins should remain as they are. Roku does say that "This is the last I want to hear of this", and he gets his wish. Roku's eventual death is what sets Aang's struggles in motion, both as the beginning of Roku's life and as the opening of the opportunity for war.
Just as a personal thought, had I been Roku, I would have kept a closer eye on Sozin to make sure that he didn't start anything.
Originally introduced as the evil Fire Lord who started the War, we can now see Sozin in a slightly different light. He was a child, happy and free, just like Roku. We can watch him go from benevolent leader to tyrannical conqueror, thinking "it's time we expanded" his empire. Sozin becomes sneaky, preparing for the war through his earlier years while making sure that Roku didn't find out. When Roku does, he attempts to subdue him, using a pretty significant fire blast. After beind beaten, he puts his plans aside for a while.
At the end of the episode, we see the defining trait of Sozin's personality: his lust for power. Despite risking his life to help save his friend, having his friend save his own life, Sozin ultimately leaves his friend to die. He had many different options: he could have stayed in his palace, he could have saved his friend, but he still decides to kill him. He later regrets his actions, but it was clearly too late.
Some of my favorite parts... I love bending...
Roku V Sozin Pt 1
This has some pretty interesting elements (pun not intended). In the duel, Roku seems to favor full frontal attacks, like the Firebender he is. He seems to block attacks and attack on his own, but using rigid forms. Sozin, on the other hand, seems to have his forms flow, dancing around Roku's blasts. The irony is that Roku is the Avatar, and will learn all elements while Sozin will all but destroy another.
Roku V The Waterbender
The next battle we see is Roku dueling against his Waterbending master, a nice battle. The water drill used by his master was incredibly powerful, and was created very quickly. Roku's wave was simple but powerful, blowing his master away. Very well done Roku...
Roku V. Sozin Pt 2
After Roku sees Sozin's colonies, he kind of flips out. Sozin attempts to justfy his ways, but Roku doesn't buy it. Sozin uses a pretty big fire blast, the most powerful non-comet-enhanced-blast in the series. Roku vanishes and uses the available elements to pwn Sozin. He not only destroys his house, but he leaves Sozin on a pillar in the middle of the capital. Way to go Roku!
Roku & Sozin V. The Volcano
Not necessarily a bending battle, but the two use the elements to fight against the volcano pretty well. Roku first creates a huge air ball to make everyone able to leave the island safely. Then the old guy stupidly runs back into the island to make for a good battle scene. It makes no sense to me, but he does and the scene is very well done. Roku uses the elements very well, using a crack in the rocks to divert the lava rather than bending it, and using Airbending to solidify the lava so he can stand. When Sozin arrives, new vigor is added to the struggle, with Sozin pulling heat out of the lava to freeze it back into rock. Then, Roku gets hit with the toxic gas and is left to die. Cheerful conclusion, isn't it?
Just some thoughts that weren't clarified by the episode...
- Since the Crown Prince Headpiece was left in Roku's house when the volcanic ash consumed it, how did Iroh manage to come across it?
- Did Roku liberate the colony that Sozin had won?
- Ta Min's ultimate fate?
- After being defeated, how did Sozin get down from the pillar in the middle of his ruined palace?
- Why Sozin didn't have Roku arrested as a traitor? The 46th Earth King tried that to Kyoshi, why not?
- Why did Roku try and stop the volcanic flow?
- Roku almost gave up before Sozin arrived, seeing no other option. After Sozin arrives, Roku uses Lavabending to push the lava back into the volcano. Why didn't Roku try that before Sozin arrived?
- Why did Sozin feel the need to help Roku? Roku was the one thing standing in his way of starting
a war, and the volcano would have killed him anyway.
Anyway, that's all. I give the episode a 9.5/10, because it's my personal favorite. If anyone has any answers to the questions I thought of, please let me know...
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